Electromagnetic simulation tools accelerate design of microwave amplifiers

December 10, 2012 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
An automated simulation-based design cycle has become a fundamental part of the success of one of today's leading designers of travelling wave tube (TWT) microwave amplifiers.

TMD Technologies produces a large range of TWTs, a core component of many radar and missile seeker systems, electronic counter measure (ECM) and electronic warfare (EW) systems. By using scripting tools built into Cobham Technical Services' Opera electromagnetic design software, the company has created a custom tool that automatically builds a three-dimensional (3D) model of a new TWT, simulates it and analyses the results, all within the space of around five minutes. This speed of design provides the engineering team with a means of rapidly creating highly-optimized solutions for new TWT applications, allowing the company to respond quickly and effectively to this largely project-driven business.

TMD is one of the oldest companies in the TWT marketplace, with roots dating from the early 1940s, when as the microwave tube research division of EMI Electronics it developed high power klystrons for the first airborne radars. Today, the company retains a leadership position in several TWT design segments including ring-loop and coupled-cavity types, and particularly in the higher-power parts of the market. The company's ability to design specialized high-voltage low-noise power supplies required for TWT applications, and to provide integrated transmitter subsystems is another major factor behind the company's recent growth.

Automation of the design process is critical, as simulation is the main means of understanding the effects of design changes on TWT performance. Although there are markets for standard TWT products, a large proportion of the business is application-specific and TMD often has to balance several competing design goals in order to produce the required characteristics. Along with frequency and amplification specifications, there are often severe weight, size, power consumption and heat dissipation targets for example, as systems might be installed on satellites or aircraft. The ability to design a TWT that is compatible with the voltage levels of an existing power supply is another common demand, as this can substantially reduce project costs and timescales.

The Opera-based electromagnetic design tool provides

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